Doctor Doctor Who Guide

The first 2-part story in the Eccleston's sole season of Doctor Who confirmed suspicions of a new tact that Russell T Davies wants to implement with the new series - that of an air of reality, humanity and drama that has never before been seen in Doctor Who. It is an element that is causing division amongst the fans, much like the first season of Peter Davison's time as the Doctor, in which the TARDIS crew was criticised for being too much like soap opera characters at times. I must admit to favouring the arguments and tussles of the main cast, because it brings a lot more depth to their characters. Adric's death in 'Earthshock' actually benefitted from these soap opera moments in my opinion, and while I don't actually think either Camille Coduri or Noel Clarke are particularly brilliant actors, I do think the characters of Jackie and Mickey are a fantastic addition to the new series. Some have said the character development between the four recurring cast members has taken up too much time in the new series, but if we are going to get original ideas such as the '12 hours = 12 months' gutwrencher at the opening of 'Aliens of London' and the lovely '10 seconds' finale to 'World War III' as a replacement for 25 minutes of running up and down corridors on an alien ship as many of the classic episodes were guilty of, then I'm all for bringing a bit of emotion in.

It was moments like these that made me think a lot of the Aliens of London/World War III episodes when I watched them back, having been disappointed in the story as a whole on first viewing. The plot itself is quite simple and traditional in terms of Who, with an alien race trying to take over Earth for their own ends, which turn out to be for the Slitheen 'family business'. The lovely twist of them using a decoy alien ship in 'Aliens Of London' is a wonderful idea, even if the pig in a spacesuit is a little bit of a badly realised moment for a modern audience to watch in my opinion. But where I was disappointed was that the menace of these aliens trying to take over 10 Downing Street was totally and utterly negated by misguided humour and a terrible, terrible creation in the design of the Slitheen. Whoever was in the BBC discussion room and said 'I know! Let's make the baddies EVEN MORE LAUGHABLE than the MIDGET PIG just to really annoy the fans' should be shot. After the nicely done Autons of 'Rose', monster fest of 'The End Of The World' and the frightening Gelth of 'The Unquiet Dead', the revelation of the Slitheen was disappointing, even more so because it was at the first cliffhanger ending of the series.

Certain elements of the script didn't fit well together. Whilst there were 3 moments of genuine tension in the entire 2 episodes for me, that worked brilliantly (namely, Dr Sato hearing noises in her laboratory; Mickey and Jackie battling to stop the Slitheen in Mickey's flat and the build up to the cliffhanger of 'Aliens Of London') many other moments in the story were presented as farcical. I love witty one-liners in Doctor Who ('Have you been seeing someone else?'; 'No, mainly because everyone thinks I murdered you'), but they need to be used at the right time: 'Would you rather silent but deadly?' is a dreadful, dreadful line, used in one of the most important points in the story and it is one of many misplaced moments where the tone changes from one of brilliant menace and danger to one of utter stupidity.

Which brings me onto Christopher Eccleston. While Billie Piper treats the script with respect and manages to make all of her scenes believable, Eccleston's performance is becoming more and more erratic, and utterly out of context in places. When his execution is ordered at the beginning of 'World War III', his response is a ridiculous diatribe about cornering people by lift doors. Any fear that the Doctor might be shot is gone, because he stands there for 5 minutes while the army just look at him and don't even try to shoot him at all. Eccleston performs these scenes like the very worst moments of McCoy in Season 24 and he doesn't have the benefit that he'll have 3 years to ease into the role, like McCoy did. Admittedly he's not helped by the script in these scenes, nor is he helped by utterly over the top performances from David Verrey and Annette Badland in the main villain roles, who both (Verrey in particular) seem to be sending the show up. Verrey is a poor actor at the best of times, and to see him in such an important role was disappointing.

Other members of the supporting cast were truly wonderful though. Penelope Wilton, as expected, was the standout. Her character was believable and well-rounded and far more developed than any of the characters from the earlier episodes in this season, which is another benefit of the 2-part stories. Other good performances in 'Aliens Of London' came from Navin Chowdhry and Naoko Mori, as Indra Ganesh and Dr Sato respectively, both in small, but important roles, and I was disappointed neither of them made it into 'World War III'. I'd love to see all 3 of these actors in the show again, but particularly Wilton even if she doesn't get to say 'Harriet Jones MP Flydale North' as the prime minister!

Overall, a mixed bag for me. Some truly wonderful moments, but some utterly terrible ones too. I think the story didn't quite live up to the premise of the first 20 minutes of 'Aliens Of London' and that there was far too much silliness and running down corridors at the beginning of 'World War III' (certainly the weakest 10 minutes of the season so far for me). Variable performances, variable scripting and variable production values also let the story down, but at the same time I found myself interested from beginning to end, so it can't have been all bad.

Filters: Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor Television